Always the King of Kings – Homily for Palm Sunday 2011

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I had the privilege of traveling to Jerusalem as a seminarian. Standing on the Mount of Olives you can look across and see Jerusalem. Facing you is a strange city gate. It is called the Golden Gate, but it has been walled up for centuries. Even stranger, where you would expect a road to lead to the gate, there is a cemetery instead. It was explained to me that the Messiah is expected to enter through the Golden Gate when he arrives at Jerusalem. After the Moslems  took over the Holy Land they didn’t want any meddling Messiahs interrupting their reign, so they bricked up the Golden Gate. But because you never know with Messiahs, they also started burying  bodies in front of it. A good Orthodox Jew will not walk over a grave for fear of being defiled, so having a cemetery in front of the gate provides an extra means of security.

Unfortunately, they were a thousand years too late. The Messiah has already come. When Jesus entered triumphally into Jerusalem, he would have come down the Mount of Olives, picked up his donkey at some point, and then rode into the city, entering through the Golden Gate. As he is loudly proclaimed and welcomed, we see clearly that he is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.Perhaps at no moment in Scripture is Jesus Kingship more obvious.

But I ask you, before his triumphal entry, was he still the King of Kings? Yes, he was.

And after Palm Sunday, when he stood teaching in the Temple, was he still the King of Kings? Of course.

How about on Holy Thursday when he gathered in the Upper Room, took off his cloak, and washed his disciples’ feet. Was he still the King of Kings then? Certainly.

And when he was betrayed and arrested and tried and convicted for crimes he didn’t commit, was he still the King of Kings then? Undoubtedly.

And when he was nailed to the cross, rejected by his people, and died in disgrace — was he still the King of Kings then? Yes, he was.

He was not just a king because people treated him that way. He was a king because God the Father loved him and gave him the Kingdom. Nothing he suffered could change that fact. This is why he was not afraid of suffering for us. He trusted that the one thing that truly mattered, his Father’s love, they couldn’t take away from him.

We are often afraid of suffering and rejection because we are afraid of losing something priceless. Our reputation, our dignity, our friends, our own sense of self all seem to hang in the balance. But the truth is that what really matters cannot be taken away from us. By his death, Christ won for us the privilege of being God’s beloved children. We are His. They cannot take this away from us. Whether we are treated with dignity or shame, praise or abuse, we remain God’s beloved children.

You may not be perfect, but one thing that today’s Gospel teaches us: You are worth dying for.

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